Today (2 July), Compassion praised Marks & Spencer for the roll out of their ‘Oakham Gold’ Chicken which meets all the higher welfare criteria of the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC).
Industry leading commitment
M&S was the first retailer to sign up to the BCC in early 2018 and they are the first to start their transition in earnest by successfully securing a commercial deal with their supplier.
They will convert all their current ‘Oakham’ chicken to the BCC-compliant ‘Oakham Gold’ for 100% of their fresh supply by Autumn 2022. Further rollouts for their processed and ingredient chicken are anticipated by the BCC 2026 deadline.
This landmark decision involves the gradual laying down of breeding flocks to deliver the 23.5 million meat chickens of the higher welfare, slower growing Hubbard breed needed for the M&S fresh supply.
Special Recognition Award
In recognition of this bold move, Compassion has presented M&S with its prestigious Special Recognition Award, as part of its 2021 Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards.
M&S Food Managing Director, Stuart Machin said: “M&S has a long history of leading on animal welfare standards, working with our M&S Select farmers we know and trust. We were the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the first major retailer to move to 100% Free Range eggs and all our pork is 100% outdoor bred.
“We already have the biggest range of RSPCA Assured products on the market but we constantly want to raise the bar - that is why we are making this industry-leading commitment. It will lead to a step-change in UK farming standards and show customers that our determination to maintain the highest welfare standards means they will always get exceptional quality and trusted value at M&S.”
UK retail sector must strengthen position on chicken
Currently, Waitrose is the only other British retailer to have signed up to the BCC, and although there has been great traction in the food service sector with major brands like KFC, Nando’s and Burger King signing up, transition and roll out is still slow to materialise.
Retailers, who dominate the sale of chicken in the UK, need to align themselves with the BCC.
All the French retailers have signed up and in May, Carrefour Polska became the first retail chain in Poland to join the growing list of BCC signatories – a move which is particularly significant as Poland is the largest producer of meat chickens in Europe.
Time is ticking as much needs to be done to meet the 2026 deadline. Parent flocks need to be laid down and scaled-up, contracts need to be signed, product offerings may need to change, and the consumer needs to be brought on board.
The UK, which regards itself as a leader in animal welfare is in danger of rapidly falling behind the curve in Europe. The time is right to strengthen its position in the market and M&S is demonstrably leading the way.
Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming said: “We congratulate M&S for the example they have set; the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the first to start transitioning supply, and the first to roll out entry-tier product on shelf with their ‘Oakham Gold’ fresh chicken. M&S wholeheartedly deserve their Special Recognition Award from us this year!
“It is imperative that other retailers and more food service businesses follow their lead, not just by signing up to the BCC but by acting on it. Making commitments across the entire supply chain is a major step towards raising baseline standards, but only once concrete plans and contracts with suppliers are in place will the market truly move forwards and affect real change for chickens.”